Faithful folks and the supernatural

As Halloween approaches, even religious websites are focusing on the holiday. There is the usual “Should Christians celebrate Halloween?” debate with some strongly against allowing children to dress as witches and other evil creatures and some making the connection of Halloween with All Saints Day.

I just read an article on the United Methodist Church’s Ministry Matters website titled “Ghosts, Supernaturalism and the Wesley Poltergeist” which was fascinating. It told the story of a poltergeist that spent some time in the home of John Wesley, founder of Methodism, when he was a young teen in the early 1700s. (A poltergeist is a ghost who causes physical disturbances such as loud noises or objects being thrown around.) The Wesley family, as well as their servants, heard strange noises and saw furniture moving for a period of about eight weeks.

When I shared this story with a family member who is a faithful Christian, he replied that perhaps the Wesley family was somewhat crazy. It’s interesting that religious people who believe such things as a virgin giving birth, a man rising from the dead, and heavenly beings called angels, have trouble imaging that other supernatural beings exist.

I’ve always thought that part of the appeal of Halloween is the opportunity it gives us to make light of things that terrify us, whether we believe they really exist or not. The creatures that inhabit our nightmares seem a lot less scary when they’re personified by little children. Yet, just as my faith leads me to believe that there are miracles and angels, it also leaves me open-minded to the possibility other beings might also exist, ones that aren’t on the side of the angels. So I may smile as I watch the little witches, ghosts, and vampires going door to door on Halloween, but I still find the holiday just a bit unsettling.

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